February 19, 2007

Welcome to the land of the shovel handle

I'm starting to think that Jackson Hole is a bit of a caricature of a ski resort, in much the same way that Chamonix can be... Rather than expecting everyone to have an ice axe strapped to their rucksack as sometimes seems the case in Cham, here every second person seems to have a shovel handle on their back, fatter skis than you've ever seen before and either telemark or touring bindings. It's not just the 'cool' dudes either, it's everyone, young and old, male and female.

It's not too surprising given the kind of skiing that's popular here and the way that the resort accomodates that. Much of the lift lines first thing in the morning vanish off into the back country after getting high enough and aren't seen in lift lines again... The rest have the gear "just in case" and ski in the in bounds off-piste adventure playground. I think you're actually less likely to need all the gear here (assuming you stay 'in bounds') than you are in Europe. Here everything in bounds is both patrolled and avalanche safe. In Europe if you stray outside the piste markers then you're off-piste and there's no guarantee that the resort has done anything to make the area safe; they don't like avalanches to hit the pistes but off-piste is fair game... Here most of the hazards are marked, cliffs, hazards and closed areas (usually closed because they have stupidly huge cliffs or no snow etc) are all indicated; to the point where there are signs that warn you when you go to some of the more remote areas that don't have signs warning you of every danger... Once you get all of this in your head you start to realise that the whole open playground that is the in bound area in Jackson Hole is a wonderful taste of extreme skiing that's accessible to the rest of us... It certainly seems that you can get some relatively safe kicks skiing here rather than off-piste in Europe or out of bounds...

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Posted by Len at February 19, 2007 09:30 PM | Categories: Season 2 - General
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